UK antitrust body CMA to be denied power to impose rules

The UK antitrust body that last year decided that Apple and Google have too much power is itself set to be denied the legal powers it expected to be given.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) expected to be granted what is known as statutory powers, but it’s today being reported that the government has shelved this plan (


Just over a year ago, the UK became the latest country to open an antitrust investigation into whether Apple’s App Store terms were anticompetitive.

Apple has faced App Store antitrust investigations around the world, from the US to Japan – and the UK is the latest to put the company’s control of iOS apps under scrutiny. The European Union currently has three open antitrust investigations into the App Store, but the UK leaving the EU means that it is no longer a party to these.

The UK’s competition watchdog today announced plans to determine whether the App Store restricts competition. The government announced that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be running the investigation.

This was followed by a second investigation into the broader Apple and Google effective duopoly in the mobile apps market.

The British government planned to give statutory powers to the CMA.

The British government has announced plans for new antitrust powers that would give it the ability to overrule commercial decisions made by tech giants like Apple. The proposed British powers would be granted to a body called the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), which is part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The powers would have allowed the CMA to directly impose rules on tech companies operating in the UK, and to fine them up to 10% of their turnover when the rules were breached. This would have been a worrying development for Apple, since the CMA concluded that both Apple and Google do indeed have too much power.

UK antitrust body CMA won’t get statutory powers

However, the Financial Times reports that plans to grant statutory powers to the CMA have now been abandoned.

Britain is poised to shelve plans to provide statutory powers to a new technology regulator, in a blow to global efforts to curb the dominance of internet companies […]

The government’s new legislative program is not expected to include a bill to provide statutory underpinning to the digital markets unit that is based within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the FT reported, citing people briefed on the situation […]

The Queen’s Speech due on May 10, which will outline the government’s legislative program for the coming year, is not expected to include a bill that would provide the unit with statutory powers.

If confirmed, this news doesn’t get tech giants off the hook for antitrust matters in the UK. But the CMA will not be able to directly demand policy changes or impose fines – instead, it will only be able to make recommendations to parliament.

The CMA’s final report is due next month, and is expected to recommend the following measures:

  • Making it easier for users to switch between iOS and Android phones when they want to replace their device without losing functionality or data.
  • Making it easier to install apps through methods other than the App Store or Play Store, including so-called “web apps.”
  • Enabling all apps to give users a choice of how they pay in-app for things like game credits or subscriptions, rather than being tied to Apple’s and Google’s payment systems.

Photo: Yaopey Yong / Unsplash

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Naveen Kumar

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